This past week we hosted a Great Starts Breakfast, SBCo's learning forum in LA on the topic of "Why Brand Matters." Our guests were heads of HR, Talent Management leaders and those managing the Talent Acquisition function. It was a lively discussion about branding, which is one of the most misunderstood concepts in business. What does it mean to create a compelling brand message that lines up with your culture? Our experience is that messages and experiences on the inside don't always connect to those on the outside for your customers. We are far better at capturing the hearts and minds of our customers and still struggle with that experience for candidates.
What we are seeing now is the intersection of HR and Marketing. Here are some definitions from our guest speaker, Krysta Masciale (owner and founder of Big Deal Branding in Los Angeles):
We have not seen enough collaboration in these two domains. That is changing. There is a need to holistically look at strategy for finding those scarce high performing talents. Many companies have resorted to hiring a search firm to tackle this work (something that SBCo enjoys doing and has excelled in) AND there must be an expanded focus in this work that ensures greater probability of long term success and candidate fit.
In our session, we explored the realities and misconceptions of “Brand”. Krysta Masciale reminds us that brand isn’t solely a fancy logo or high tech website. Brand is the “Why” of your business. Why do you exist? Why should customers choose you over a competitor? Why should talent come work for you?
To get to the “Why” piece, you must first define these five things:
1. Values- Identify 4-5. Define meaning for your organization. Claim these values in your daily work.
2. Strengths- Find the sweet spot of what you are good at and acknowledge what your organization is not good at.
3. Goals- Establish a yearly theme. Set quarterly goals. Assess goals and theme regularly.
4. Messages- Clarity and commitment is key here - take the step to clarify two words that describe your organization and commit to those words/message.
5. Ideal Clients- Identify this group so that you can speak to the wants and needs of this group.
When these five steps are done right, profits rise and employees see the "why" to stay, production increases and candidates learn more about new opportunities. These steps can easily be utilized by a Marketer creating the company story or the Recruiter and his or her Marketing/Communications partner to develop the talent story.
In 2016 our firm is committed to expanding this work with our clients in order to create a talent brand and message that ensures ideal candidates see "their wants" in the hiring company. If they don't see themselves in this picture, then it is probably not for them. Candidates also want to experience interviews and realistic job previews that reflect the organization and leader values. Here at SBCo we already focus on that when crafting a "marketing specification" that is entirely beyond the traditional job description. Clients value the time and effort we place on getting the story right and asking questions that uncover the "DNA" and culture of a firm as well as the opportunity to contribute in cool ways. (p.s. we love using micro sites, podcasts and other non-traditional ways to relay the story).
Get started on the "why." It will make a big difference. If you need help along the way and are committed to raising the stakes in competing for talent; call us here at S. Benjamins & Company and we will bring our brand strategist and amazing search team into a new conversation. Let me know your thoughts at Sherry@sbcompany.net and Krysta Masciale at www.bigdealbranding.com
This month we decided to highlight the creativity, impact and courage of two women entrepreneurs who are successfully using their strengths and passion to share their love of food and film. Natasha Feldman and Julianna Strickland started their own company, Cinema & Spice, over five years ago and have been Best Friends, Producers, Directors, Writers, Hosts, and Goofballs ever since.
Cinema & Spice Productions makes web-based cooking shows. Natasha and Julianna have worked with a variety of companies including Yahoo, Kraft, Le Creuset, Keds, Warner Brothers, Lifetime, and KitchenAid to develop and create youthful and creative shows.
Their Webby Nominated Cooking Show, Cinema & Spice (C&S), has been featured in The LA Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Union Tribune, and on The Steve Harvey Show. Each episode of C&S is inspired by a movie or television show and features original recipes, useful kitchen tips, and ideas for entertaining.
Sherry Benjamins (SB): It’s so great to chat with you Julianna and Natasha! Tell us how you started such an imaginative company?
Natasha Feldman (NF): I had just graduated from LMU and decided that I wanted to go to culinary school. Julianna had just graduated from USC with a film degree and we were both working in the same restaurant. At the time that I met Julianna I needed a roommate and she was looking to move out of her apartment, so we became roommates, co-workers, and friends.
We experimented in the kitchen and filmed these mini-episodes of us cooking. The first episode was horrible but we kept playing with it in the editing bay to see if we could create some structure and purpose. At first we thought just our friends and family would watch, but soon we were gaining a following.
Long story short, we started getting sponsors for our episodes and we eventually connected with Yahoo! and grew our business from there.
SB: What role do each of you play in the organization? Do you have a team to help you run this company?
Julianna Strickland (JS): Someday we may be lucky enough to have a full support staff, but for now it’s just the two of us and our freelance team. Natasha is the one who develops recipes, does the food styling and writes. I am all the things under the surface that allow our business to run.
For instance, I do all of the back-end production, accounting, hire the film crew and edit all copy. And we like to do the creative brainstorming for each episode together. We are strategic about getting the best talent available to help us in areas where additional expertise is needed.
SB: Cinema & Spice does their own videos as well as videos for brands. Do brands approach you and just ask for a video?
NF: Yes, brands reach out to a platform, such as Yahoo!, AOL or a YouTube company, looking for content and we get the requests through the larger companies, usually. Sometimes the request is for general concepts to see if they feel it fits in with their current landscape and needs, and other times it’s for full-blown productions. We have been fortunate to work with brands like Kraft, Le Creuset, Keds and KitchenAid.
SB: It is great to hear that you are able to inject some of your creativity into these very large organizations. How can corporations use a similar level of creativity (besides hiring you!)?
NF: Large companies can’t be afraid of the new; it’s no mystery that the world as we know it is changing. That doesn’t mean that companies should make rash decisions to completely alter their brand. Organizations are quick to “blow up” a process or initiative, but sometimes you just need to approach it in a new way.
We find companies often spend egregious amounts of money to work with big production houses and end up with a product that looks like everyone else and doesn’t break the mold. If you don’t hire someone that’s a little risky and don’t make a product that is a little risky, you won’t get the impactful result you were looking for.
SB: There is a lot of change happening right now as the millennial generation enters the workforce. You are both Millennials… any advice for organizations on how to “handle” your generation?
NF: It is really important to embrace the strengths of others and use their talent and perspectives to compliment or break out into something new. We see and honor the power of collaboration. It is pretty easy for Millennials to create a website and launch a company, but there is so much power in the wisdom and expertise of older generations. Technology changes, but the core needs and wants of people don’t change much. Millennials are a valuable asset to fill in the gap between the new technology and the established business.
JS: We are constantly at the crossroad between old and new. The tech space is all about the newest thing, but in the food world, established and authentic brands actually have respect from the consumer. There’s a similar crossroads within organizations between the newest thing (Millennials) and the established/respected business.
SB: You launched your own business in an industry that has a lot of big players. What drove you to take this step?
SB: I am hearing more often these days from corporate professionals who say, “I am ready for a change because my work isn’t exciting or fun anymore. I need to find my purpose again.”
JS: If you choose something you love to do, you will always find the joy and purpose in it. We are lucky to be able to enjoy our work through creating our own episodes, making branded content for others, and volunteering to teach the next generation how to cook, both through our shows and at local food banks and low income housing around LA.
SB: What does 2016 look like for Cinema & Spice?
NF: In 2016 we want to continue to branch out with our production company. We meet so many brilliant people inside organizations as well as independent talent (comedians, actors, bloggers, etc.) that we want to partner with to produce their content. Watch for new episodes and productions that we hope inspire you to incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle.
Seek out talent the way Julianna and Natasha do for their business. Imagine having the creativity, passion and trust in your workers so that they bring their best to your culture every day. They get to work on something that did not exist yesterday. This dynamic duo is crafting a new on-line and social presence in a changing world.
They think creatively about how work gets done. This supports predictions that new models of work, worker and workplace have arrived. Natasha and Julianna are just one example of young leaders who demonstrate that we have left behind “business as usual.” Tap into your employee’s imagination and you may be thoroughly surprised what can be accomplished!
You may have picked up your newspaper or checked your tablet today and read about Starbucks offering college classes to over 130,000 employees. It got us thinking, how many organizations are investing in their employees’ education outside of the internal training?
The American Council of Education approximates that roughly 20 percent of graduate students and 6 percent of undergraduates receive some financial assistance from their employers to attend school. As many as a third of undergraduates in fields like business and engineering receive tuition assistance from their employers. In fact, tuition assistance is the most common source of financial aid for college students, and on average it covers about one-third of the average annual cost paid by post-secondary students. Big name companies like Apple, Chevron, FedEx, Gap, Raytheon, and U.S. Airways (to name a few) offer some level of financial assistance to employees looking to further their education.
A 2002 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management of 510 employers found 79 percent offering educational assistance of various kinds. While some employers require that employees agree to stay with the company for a certain period of time post-graduation to “pay their dues” others see this cost as an investment in their talent and their brand. The CEO and Chairman of Starbucks was quoted by the NY Times as stating that even if employees left soon after receiving their education, Starbucks’ investment in the employee “would be accreted to our brand, our reputation and our business…I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people.”
Is there a shift happening in the way employers invest in employees? We think there might be. Organizations are moving away from pension plans and tenures and moving toward investing in early to mid-career employees who show a tenacity for productivity and an ambition to move up the ladder.